About 25 years ago, my college fraternity would rent a projector for the weekend in order to host “Drive-In” movie nights. We would hang bed sheets on the side of the house and project romcoms like “Something About Mary” for the official date portion of the weekend. Then we’d screen “Animal House” for when the dateless brothers got around to using the projector. I’m even ashamed to say the police arrived at the house when less savory movies eventually made their way to the 300” screen.

Back then, it cost about $250 to rent a projector for the weekend on top of the $1000 deposit that somebody had to come up with on their credit card. If the bulb burned out; we were out of luck as nobody was willing to fork up another couple hundred bucks to replace that bulb.

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Today, you can own a projector for less than the cost of a replacement bulb back then. There’s a slew of basic, or shall I say cheap, projectors available for less than $100. Despite advertising HD or 1080 resolution; most of these projectors are natively 640×480. On top of that, their bulbs simply aren’t bright enough to project much further than several feet unless the room is pitch black. The Dr. J Professional AK-40 wifi projector offers true 1920×1080 resolution with a stated 7500 lumens of projecting power for a penny shy of $200.

With sleek micro and nano projectors with similar technical specs available, is the Dr. J Professional Projector worth your consideration?

Design

In the box, you get the projector, remote, AV cable, audio cable, lens cleaning kit, and even a 100” cloth screen with mounting hooks. Typical user manual, warranty, and pleads for a review.

The Dr. J Professional AK-40 is molded into a similar package to those from 25 years ago. It’s not huge, but it’s definitely not pocketable or very portable for that matter. At 12.5”x9.25”x4.5” and weighing about 3.5 lbs, you’re not likely to take this any further than your backyard. 

The top of the projector features manual dials for focus and keystone correction. Pro-tip from reading other reviews, the lens cap is recessed into the body of the projector and is only easily removed by turning the focus adjust ring to expose the edge of the cover. Along with the exposed dials, there are nine buttons arranged in adjacent up/down/left/right configurations with the right side adding an extra center button.

Left side buttons (clockwise from top)

  • Power
  • Menu
  • Back
  • Source

The right side buttons are for navigation of the menu as well as “enter/select” in the center. While playing, the left/right buttons act as volume down/up, respectively.

The backside of the projector features VGA, 2x USB, HDMI and SD Card input. There are 3.5mm AV and audio only outputs as well.

The bottom features a single thumbscrew foot located front center for height adjustments and a trapdoor for cleaning the lightsource and inner lenses. Initially, I didn’t see any sort of standard mounting holes in the event you want to semi-permanently mount this in your home theater room. Though I have not verified, there are screw holes for a universal projector mount located under the rubber feet according to Amazon reviews.

Performance

Setting up the Dr. J Professional AK-40 is an easy affair. Plug in the power cable and power the unit on. From there, you can scan for WiFi and input password. It connected easily and appeared to have strong connectivity.

Using the iOS cast feature, I was able to mirror my iPhone’s screen without any issue whatsoever. Playing YouTube videos appeared to work without issue. Attempting to cast Hulu; however, resulted in timeouts or error messages stating to check network connectivity. I attempted to troubleshoot by moving the projector closer to a WiFi access point with no luck. On to plan B.

I set up a Google Chromecast device by plugging into the HDMI input and powering it by utilizing one of the USB ports on the Dr. J projector. This set-up worked flawlessly. I was able to stream YouTube, Hulu, and  Netflix without any issues.

Projection is surprisingly good. I hung the included 100” screen flat on an unpainted wall and was able to fill the frame from only about 9 feet away. I was able to see the projected video fairly clearly with a 75W equivalent LED bulb lighting on. With the light turned off, my basement workout room was converted into a home theater! I was able to focus the entire image unlike other budget projectors I’ve used where the outer edges appeared out of focus. Keystone correction is limited to vertical correction only but is also effective as long as you have the projector pointing directly perpendicular to the projection surface.

Framerate on the projector is more than adequate for casual movie viewing. I’m guessing that it may show lag if watching action sports or gaming but that is not the target market for this projector. 

I was unable to find any detail on the speaker and audio output but it is also more than adequate for indoor projection. I’m guessing that you’ll want to supplement the audio if using outdoors or noisier environments.

Wrap-Up

I reached out to Dr. J’s technical support and within a day got a response regarding my inability to play video using screen cast. Turns out the feature and function works but certain apps such as Hulu and Netflix don’t allow casting to this device. I’m guessing it has to do with licensing fees or anti-piracy features absent in this implementation of iOS cast. This is easily overcome by using a Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire Stick as Dr. J’s technical support suggested. It sort of defeats the purpose of having a WiFi enabled projector but it’s a small complaint given the projector’s other strengths at the $200 price point.

Because of Covid quarantining throughout 2020, I actually invested in a Nebula Mars II projector. Despite costing over 2.5X more than the Dr. J Professional AK-40; the Mars II has lower resolution (720) and lower brightness. I would also say the Dr. J projector has louder and clearer audio compared to the Mars II 10W speaker.

I’m looking forward to hosting more movie nights in the backyard this summer and we may be able to start them a little earlier because of the extra projection power the Dr. J projector provides.

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